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WHO'S LISTENING

Bob Liddycoat: Dunnville Chronicle - August 16, 2008

http://www.dunnvillechronicle.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1157748

Rage and rant against the world again Ain't nobody listening to you

Scream and shout into the wind in vain

-John Kay, Steppenwolf

It seems the unique problems facing Haldimand County are having equally unique effects on both citizens and government officials here.

The results are by no means scientific, but recent comments, letters and conversations

indicate there is a growing frustration here brought on by the feeling that no on is listening to us.

Ironically, council's frustration with being left unheard at the provincial and federal levels of government seems to have moved them toward similar treatment of its constituents.

It seems the ongoing land disputes and related recovery plan barriers have left members of council feeling isolated and operating in a fish bowl.

The ability to make many important decisions have been taken out of their hands and there is no progress in getting results from those who do have that power to move ahead.

This may form a stronger bond among councillors, which is often a good thing, creating a precursor to accomplishment, but it may bring about an unwanted results by isolating them from everyone else.

More irony appeared last week when council approved a nearly $100,000 expenditure on hiring a communications manager. While the goal was described as an effort to improve communications, the move left many citizens angry and wondering how such an expenditure can be justified among such a small tax base.

And while a few letters to the editor appeared in protest of the move, many others expressed the feeling their protests would only fall on deaf ears and therefore, they would make none.

Council also rejected a request from Grand Erie Energy Quest to make a presentation at council. They were within their rights to deny the appearance since it wasn't on the agenda. But blocking information gathering sessions hardly promotes better communication.

So, while council feels their hands are tied on many issues due to a lack of response from governments higher up, the citizens of Haldimand are feeling an equal rage in having their voices unheard.

There are several local websites dedicated to public frustration with the perception of isolation emanating from all levels of government but most importantly from the municipal level.

While councillors are in the unenviable position of dealing with constituents on a daily basis, something not felt at higher levels of representation, they are also the ones who should have the best understanding of how the voters feel.

If they cannot express understanding and a willingness to listen, surely they can understand the impact this would have on people who are trying to be heard.

And, keep in mind, those who take the time to express themselves are the ones who really care. They are the ones who want to be involved in the public process and without them, stagnation and mediocrity will prevail in any community.

The first step in solving the concerns of both groups is to recognize it's happening and to make conscious, positive steps in resolving them.

In the case of council, this is certainly in their best interest and it is almost certain that any feelings of disregard they have conveyed to the public are accidental, brought about by their own inability to be heard.

They would be well advised to remove any barriers to public input and to demonstrate a renewed willingness to listen.

Together, citizens and council, can then provide a united front, well informed, and cohesive in tackling the issues that currently seem insurmountable.

Article ID# 1157748

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